Itachuna Rajbari a taste of royalty

Distance from Kolkata: 84.4 km approx
Driving Time: 2 hours 
Road Trip: 1 day

Khoka ghumolo para jurolo
Bargi elo deshe
Bulbulite dhan kheyeche
Khajna debo kishe?

Route: Set your trip meter to ‘0’ at the toll tax plaza on Vidyasagar Setu and proceed through Kona Expressway to enter the NH-2. Following a good tuck-in at Azad Hind Dhaba on NH-2 with aloo paratha and chana masala, Team WHEELS revved up the engines of the powerful Maruti Ertiga to be on the highway once again. After proceeding a little, you would spot the Hindustan Hotel on your left. Immediately thereafter, enter the next highway exit on the left into the bypass road to meet an insignificant intersection ‘Bosipur Morh’ adjacent to the highway. Turn right from the intersection and proceed under the flyover towards Chinsurah by the Road No. 23. After about 18 km, after crossing Mohanad, turn left from ‘Halushahi Morh’ and enter a narrower road. Continue on it for another 4 km to find the Itachuna Rajbari on the left. Although there were some uneven patches in the village roads, our Ertiga glided over smoothly enough for an enjoyable ride.

This old Bengali lullaby, still popular, is remnant of those terrifying days when Maratha hordes attacked village after village in the 18th Century. In fact the Rajbari at Itachuna, only 2 hours drive from the city, traces its history to the days when Bargis laid Bengal to waste. Team WHEELS travelled from Kolkata to Hoogly, to explore this heritage palace which seems to be surprisingly in good hands.

History
The Itachuna royals trace their origin to the invading Marathas known as “Bargees” who overran Bengal and settled in the Hoogly district. The name ‘Itachuna’ originated from ‘Bargee danga’ and signifies the historical eminence of the place. One of the invading Maratha factions was the ‘Kundan’, which later became ‘Kundu’ in local dialect. In 1766, the palace was constructed by Safallya Narayan Kundu. Later, the Rajbari was revamped and renovated by Bejoy Narayan Kundu in the year 1896. The Kundu family came into prominence during the British Raj and made much of their fortune by securing contracts of constructing railway bridges. Lord Cornwallis’ historic permanent settlement was a catalyst to the Zamindari system and saw the meteoric rise of Rai Bahadur Bejoy Krishna Kundu as a prominent Zamindar of Bengal.

Unlike tales of tyranny, that normally revolve around the Zamindars, Bejoy Krishna Kundu earned a lot of goodwill by developing the surrounding villages. Later in 1896, Narayan Kundu reconstructed the property. Thereafter, with the Government of India abolishing the Zamindari system, the maintenance of Itachuna Rajbari came to a sudden halt. The mammoth structure with its huge cost of upkeep was left to decay. In absence of any renovation, the Itachuna Rajbari was almost in shambles around 2000. A brief spell of abandonment by its occupants saw the valuable antiques of the Rajbari got stolen. Gradually, the Itachuna Rajbari was reduced to a derelict state like many other heritage buildings of Bengal.

A path to revival
It was only because the present heirs of the family – Rabindra Narayan, Dhruva Narayan and Basav Narayan Kundu, who came up with a unique way to maintain the property by letting it out to discerning tourists. From early 2012, some select rooms of the Rajbari were refurbished with antique furniture and is being let out for home-stay along with the tour promoter ‘Mylestones and Journeys’.

In a candid chat with ‘Team WHEELS’, Dhruva Narayan Kundu narrated the difficulties they face in regular maintenance of the huge property. “The regular upkeep of the Rajbari needs huge funds, which unfortunately we cannot provide. The endeavour of promoting the property as a theme resort was thus envisioned. Letting out rooms for guests to stay is the way to gather funds for maintaining the property. At present, we have about 15 rooms furnished and ready for guest to stay. In near future we plan to increase the count to around 30 rooms,” he added.

The Rajbari
The architecture of the Itachuna Rajbari is simply awe inspiring. The front courtyard is a picture of perfect upkeep with well-mowed lawn with an intimidating and mammoth entrance. Rows of rooms surround the lawn and are operational for staffs and visiting guests. The rooms belonged to the nayebs and khajanchis of the Zamindari, some of which are being renovated.

The marble staircases leading to the first floor are adorned with vintage iron railing. The interior of the Rajbari is no less splendid. The palace retains the architectural patterns of the past with occasional touch of modernity keeping in mind its present use.

The Rajabri is one of the few ‘Paach Mahala’ palaces dotting Bengal. It is divided into five mahals – Andar Mahal, Bahir Mahal, Bagicha Mahal, Kachari Bari and Thakur Bari. The main attraction though is the gorgeous inner courtyard, which is the Thakurdalan housing the deity of ‘Shreedhar Jeeu’. Even today prayers are offered twice a day. Many cultural programs like Bihu nach are organised in the courtyard on annual celebrations. In the backyard of the Rajbari, a lush green area, erstwhile ‘Khamar bari’, has now been converted into an outdoor shooting area. An adjoining pond with idyllic woods is a hotspot for get-togethers. The huge terrace of the Rajbari is an ideal vantage point and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding natural beauty.

While the aesthetics of the rooms have been mostly kept intact and in sync with their original namesake like Thakumar ghar, Chotoboudir ghar, Chotopishir ghar or even Khajanchir ghar, the whole experience of staying in the Rajbari is one and unique. The guests experience the living style of an era bygone where the cuisines too were prepared following the original recipes of the erstwhile dwellers of the Rajbari with the meals served on Kashar thala (bell metal plates) and pathor bati (stone bowl).

While the overall endeavour is a positive step aiming to provide an authentic Rajbari experience accentuated by the vintage decorations, contemporary floorings and furniture at some places look slightly outlandish and the quality of food on offer will surely improve in due course of time.

Facilities
Parking: Available inside the same campus
Drivers’ accommodation and meals at Rs 600 per day
Adivasi’ (tribal) music and dance and/or open-air barbeque can be arranged
Local site seeing may be organised against additional charges

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